Musically, this album is a masterwork. But it’s impossible for me to separate my emotional state from the music here, although I did write about the album’s title track and it’s gorgeously lilting changing meter (and music box motif) on one of this blog’s first entries, found here. This is just a tribute, really, and while I have been made aware of the fact that from a philosophical standpoint, rankings are austerity, this is one of my top three lifetime albums.
In the spring of 2009, I was still finding my footing. It was my second year of teaching middle school band, my second year out in the wide world as it was. I was living in a one bedroom apartment in the town I taught in, and my neighbors, almost all snowbirds and elderly folks down for the winter in our beach town, were starting to head back home.
Like many young teachers who have been thrust out on their own in conditions that they had not expected, I spent a lot of time on introspection in that season of my life. I had moved three hours south of my home less than two years before, experienced a life-altering break-up, and watched the worldwide economy come crashing down from my hard won & tightly clutched onto teaching position. And as most will tell you, the act of teaching itself is difficult enough.
I had known that I wanted to be a band director, to teach music, and to do a lot of writing and see a lot of concerts for almost my whole life. I was hesitant to say so, but even at the age of 26, despite knowing myself pretty well prior to that, I was very much still figuring myself out at that point.
And while I don’t remember the first day I heard it (it’s someone in Twitter records, because I wrote about it from my work laptop at the local Starbucks, where I spent a great deal of time because I did not have a smart phone or internet in my apartment), the song “People Got a Lot of Nerve” entered my consciousness. I had bought Neko Case’s prior album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and loved it. But she was not yet A Favorite.
That all changed with the album Middle Cyclone, which was released on this day, ten years ago.
I listened to it most often in my car, the first one I’d bought on my own, while driving up and down A1A, and on the turnpike back to my hometown. I listened to it more than any other album I have probably ever listened to. Neko is 12 years my senior, but she got me. She summed up my emotional state at the time, and the loneliness I felt despite the independence I’d earned. I had not felt that emotionally connected to an album since I was a teenager.
And the obsession grew from that point onward. While I couldn’t afford to quit my job and follow her on tour, I did proudly see her on every Florida date she played (until this year, during her “Florida tour”, when she played five!!!! five!!!!!!!!!!! dates across the state, of which I only caught a single brilliant show).
Three months and three days after my emotional confirmation at the hands of Neko Case, and this exploratory & life-affirming album, I met my husband. We encountered each other on a dating website, and met a few days later. We’ll celebrate a 10 year dating anniversary soon, as well. And although his tastes skewed somewhat toward heavy metal and 80s synth bands, I made a certifiable Neko fan out of him, too. “I Missed the Point”, from Neko’s 2002 release Blacklisted, was the last song played at our wedding in 2011.
My husband and I have a daughter now, and ostensibly, I have a lot more than I did when I was 26. I have found much more meaning in my life, have found my footing, so to speak, and feel I have contributed much more to the world than I did when I was in my mid-twenties.
For what it’s worth, I don’t feel as though I’d have gotten where I am now without Neko. I am more grateful than I can properly express for her artistry, her honesty, the fact that she is an unbelievably good person, a stellar example of awareness & understanding, and a generous, humble, and phenomenally humorous musician.
Thanks Neko. For everything, forever.
(Also, if you missed her on her latest tour, catch up while you can. She was incredible this time, and I love the new album, also!!)